Elevated corridor in Bandipur a threat, state tells SC

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The state government has opposed the construction of an elevated corridor in the Bandipur tiger reserve stretch of national highway 766 (old number 212), saying such construction would be a threat to Asiatic elephants and tigers.

Karnataka, in its affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, opposed the suggestion by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to build an elevated corridor in the Bandipur section of NH 766 and subsequent lifting of ban on the movement of vehicles at night.

The state government, in its affidavit to the apex court, said any construction in the form of an elevated road amidst the tiger reserve will adversely and irreversibly affect animals during the construction period. After the construction, the night glare will cause temporary blindness to most wild animals, particularly, mammals. Apart from tigers, elephants are major wild animals of the landscape. They will face perennial impediments resulting in behavioural changes, the state said.

Following the demand by the Kerala government to open the road for movement of vehicles on a 24x7 basis, the Ministry informed the Supreme Court that five elevated stretches of 1 km length each could be built for smooth movement of vehicles mostly from (Wayanad) Kerala to (Bandipur) Karnataka. The Ministry also suggested the lifting of the night ban on the movement of vehicles (9 pm to 6 am) after completion of the construction. However, environmentalists have opposed this.

Opposing the Ministry’s suggestion on building the corridor of 10-metre width as against the present carriageway width of 7 metres by acquiring 5 metres along the road in the tiger reserve, Karnataka said this would have far-reaching consequences. Annually, more than 30 people are being killed by wild elephants and any further disturbances to its habitat will increase the chances of disaster, the state said.

“The population of genetically viable Asiatic wild elephant in the world is restricted to the Mysore elephant reserve, which is part of the Nilgiri biosphere reserve. The reserve, which spreads from Bandipur to Kudremukh, is a habitat for over 5,000 Asiatic elephants,” it said. 

Already, the Mysore elephant reserve is facing a lot of disturbances in the form of linear developments, particularly roads. Any further development will cause irreparable damage to its habitat, resulting in the extinction of the Asiatic elephants, the state said.

Any development works, including upgrading of infrastructure in the elephant reserve, is at the cost of the survival of the species and loss of irreplaceable bio-diversity. Besides, this project will be a threat to tigers, the state said.

While reiterating its stand on continuing the existing ban on movement of vehiles during night, Karnataka said an alternative road passing through Thithimathi-Gonikoppa developed by the Karnataka government was available during restricted hours.

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